The men’s basketball team had the lead with under eight minutes to play this past Saturday against Penn State, but a late run by the Nittany Lions, coupled with some untimely turnovers, led to a 66-54 loss for the Red.
Cornell drops to 1-2 on the season, while Penn State opens its season with a 1-0 record.
“It’s a disappointing loss,” said junior center Andrew Naeve. “[Penn State’s] definitely a team we could’ve beat.”
After nearly knocking off No. 16 Syracuse in its last outing, the Red came out in the first half with similar hopes against its Big Ten opponent.
Naeve got things started for with four points and four rebounds for the Red in the early minutes of the game.
A trey by senior tri-captain Lenny Collins and lay-ups from freshman guard Adam Gore and junior forward Jason Hartford pushed Cornell’s lead to six, before Penn State fought back with an 8-0 run of its own to take the lead, 15-13.
The first half continued in a close back-and-forth manner, with Cornell maintaining a narrow advantage thanks to strong man-to-man defense that limited Penn State to just 34.4 percent shooting from the floor in the first half.
While Penn State sank only 1-of-10 attempted 3-point shots in the first half, strong rebounding kept the Nittany Lions close, and Cornell led just 29-27 after 20 minutes.
Cornell looked to pull away in the second half, and seemed to do so, pushing its lead to eight with just over 11 minutes to play.
However, foul trouble and fatigue forced Cornell to switch from its successful man-to-man defense into a zone to try and combat Penn State’s strength inside.
“I thought we did a decent job in the man-to-man, but when we went zone I think they found us a couple of time and made us pay,” said Cornell head coach Steve Donahue.
While Cornell’s zone defense was effective in dealing with the Nittany Lions’ post game, Penn State’s Mike Walker took the opportunity to catch fire from behind the arc.
Walker connected on all three of his attempts from behind the arc in the second half of the game, two of which came during an 18-4 run by Penn State that put the Nittany Lions’ on top, 52-46, with 7:02 to play.
Penn State pushed its lead to as many as 14 points in the closing minutes of the game. A late run by Cornell brought the game to within eight with five minutes to play but a 3 by the Nittany Lions’ Ben Luber put the Penn State up by double digits for good.
“Give Penn State credit,” Donahue said. “I thought they got physical with us, they got some key offensive rebounds and then we had some critical turnovers during that same stretch.”
While Cornell had 33 total rebounds on the game, Penn State pulled down an impressive 49 boards – including 22 offensive rebounds, which were good for 19 second chance points.
“I think Penn State won the game on the offensive rebounds,” Donahue said. “We get 12 [offensive rebounds], which is a good number for us, but we give up 22, and it’s very difficult to overcome that against a Big Ten school at their home arena.”
Collins and Gore were leading scorers for the Red with 14 points each on the day. As a team Cornell shot 35.7 percent from the field and 68.8 percent from the free-throw line. “I think when you look at this game we played pretty well, except for a four or five minute stretch where they make a run and we don’t answer,” Donahue said.
Archived article by Paul Testa
Sun Staff Writer